Ring adds privacy dashboard to app in response to security concerns
Ring has announced that it is adding a new privacy dashboard to its mobile apps that will let Ring owners manage their connected devices, third-party services, and whether local police partnered with Ring can make requests to access video from the Ring cameras on the account. The company says that other privacy and security settings will be added to the dashboard in the future. This new Control Center is available now in both the iOS and Android versions of the Ring app.
Ring has faced considerable criticism in recent weeks over its security and privacy practices. There have been reports of Ring cameras being “hacked” because owners reused passwords and logins that were obtained by bad hackers in data leaks from other services and didn’t have two-factor authentication set up. A Motherboard report detailed a host of other bad security practices in Ring’s systems, such as allowing multiple logins from various locations and IP addresses without informing the owners.
In a phone interview, Ring founder Jamie Siminoff says the new Control Center takes a lot of the things that Ring is already doing around security and privacy and puts them in a single location for customers to manage, while also adding a few new features on top. One of those new features is the ability to see who is currently logged into the account and log them out right from the app as well as manage third-party apps and services that have access to your Ring account. Other features include the ability to set up two-factor authentication (which Ring has had for some time) from the dashboard.
Siminoff says that Ring is continuing to inform its customers of the importance of two-factor authentication on their accounts and will be making it an “opt-out” thing for new account setups, as opposed to the opt-in setup it currently is. But existing customers will not be forced to adopt two-factor on their existing accounts; Siminoff says doing this would require Ring to log everyone out of the system, and it would prevent access to Ring alarm systems and cameras until the customer opens the app, sets up two-factor, and logs back in. Ring currently only supports two-factor authentication through SMS, but Siminoff says the company will be adding other options in the future.
In addition to providing more security controls, the new Control Center will tell Ring owners if the company has a partnership with their local police department and manage the ability for police to request video clips. Ring has close relationships with over 600 police departments across the country to provide them with footage from the Ring cameras that are installed by homeowners. These relationships have been a point of criticism for months, as many reports have come out on how police are able to access and use Ring footage and the issues this presents for marginalized communities. Information on what data Ring provides to police was released when Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) asked Amazon (Ring’s parent company) for it and then made the company’s responses public.
While the new Control Center does seem to provide an easy way for Ring owners to control their security and privacy options, some might not find it to be proactive enough on Ring’s part. The company is mostly sticking to its policy of informing customers about things like two-factor authentication and when login information is discovered on the dark web following data breaches, as opposed to making those things mandatory or forcibly changing customers’ passwords after a data breach happens.